The US Air Force has received its final QF-16 Zombie Viper aircraft from Boeing at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida.

The full-scale aerial target vehicle was delivered to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron on July 29, the air force confirmed.

The QF-16 is an optionally-piloted, reusable target system modified from previously retired F-16 legacy units. It can be operated by a pilot or ground personnel through a remote program.

The aircraft allows a wide range of aerial test missions to assess air-to-air firing, ground-to-air live missile firing, new weapon systems, auto takeoff and landing, and supersonic flights without risk to crews.

Final Zombie Viper delivery. Photo: Boeing

“The QF-16 provides a crucial capability to both the Air Force and Navy in the development of next generation weapon systems,” DMCA Commanding Officer Navy Cmdr. Gabriel Hohner said.

The Zombie Viper is the successor of the QF-4 Phantom drone that retired in 2016.

The QF-16’s first unmanned flight took place in September 2013. Since then, the air force has taken delivery of over 75 modified aircraft from Boeing.

Modified F-16s

As part of the program, Boeing previously received decommissioned F-16s from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group storage in Tucson, Arizona. Drone conversion equipment was installed on the aircraft for renewed use at the firm’s facility in Cecil Airport, Jacksonville.

The Defense Contract Management Agency and its contract partners have faced challenges in modifying the QF-16s. Obstacles included supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, maintenance-related issues, and the age of the aircraft. which exceeds 30 years.

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“We worked daily, directly on the hangar floor, and hand-in-hand with the contractor, to resolve a variety of production issues,” DCMA Quality Assurance Specialist Michael Jackson said.

“Our DCMA team worked diligently to overcome all obstacles, alleviating production delays, and delivering the remaining aircraft on schedule and under budget,” he added.